|Heineken Champions Cup Pool Four: Ulster v Scarlets|
|Ulster (10) 30|
|Tries: Henderson 2, Stockdale, Cooney Cons: Cooney 2 Pens: Cooney 2|
|Scarlets (3) 15|
|Tries: J Davies, Prydie Con: Patchell Pen: Patchell|
Ulster secured a second consecutive bonus-point win over Scarlets with a dominant 30-15 victory in Belfast.
Iain Henderson scored twice while Jacob Stockdale and John Cooney also crossed as the hosts moved level on points with Pool Four leaders Racing 92.
Jonathan Davies and Tom Prydie’s second half tries were scant consolation for Scarlets, who remain without a point.
Racing can re-establish their points lead when they take on Leicester at Welford Road on Sunday.
Ulster answer McFarland’s call
Earlier in the week, Ulster head coach Dan McFarland had called on his players to back-up their impressive victory in Llanelli with a similarly disciplined performance.
If anything the display from McFarland’s side was even better as the hosts played the tricky conditions expertly – navigated by fly-half Billy Burns, who enjoyed arguably his best game since his summer move from Gloucester, and captain Rory Best on his record 72nd European cap for the province.
|Champions Cup Pool Four|
|1. Racing 92||3||3||0||14|
|3. Leicester Tigers||3||1||0||6|
Henderson’s close-range effort was the only try of the first half, with Rhys Patchell’s 39th minute penalty ensuring it was a one-score game despite the home side’s territorial dominance and a yellow card for Scarlets prop Wyn Jones.
Davies’ counter-attacking score briefly had the visitors level before Stockdale’s fifth try in six provincial appearances and Henderson’s second effort shortly afterwards put Ulster back in the driving seat.
Cooney’s 67th minute score clinched a second bonus point of the European campaign before Prydie dived over in the corner to round off the scoring with a minute remaining.
Burns steers the ship
The sides had to contend with wet and windy conditions in the first half and Burns used the skiddy surface to his advantage – forcing Scarlets back into their own 22 with a series of well-placed grubber kicks.
With Scarlets’ indiscipline allowing Ulster to set up camp in their 22, Henderson eventually crossed following 10 minutes of sustained pressure.
Stockdale’s second-half score came from a Burns kick over the top after the fly-half spotted Prydie coming out of the defensive line.
Ulster repeated the tactic for their third score with Ludik collecting Burns’ kick before quick ball eventually sent Henderson over in the right corner.
Scarlets pay price for high error count
Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac showed he was not prepared to throw the towel in on his side’s European campaign by bringing Wales internationals Wyn Jones, Jake Ball and Hadleigh Parkes back into his side for the trip to Belfast.
However the visitors were masters of their own downfall on too many occasions, spilling numerous high-balls and repeatedly infringing at the breakdown – an area which brought about Wyn Jones’ yellow card shortly before Henderson’s opening score.
Davies slid onto a loose ball under the posts after Gareth Davies’ intercept to bring the scores level but Scarlets were unable to offer sustained pressure in Ulster territory.
Last year’s semi-finalists can now turn their focus back towards the Pro14, with their European hopes well and truly over for this season.
‘We had to be better’
Ulster assistant coach Dwyane Peel on BBC Radio Ulster: “We spoke on Monday about how the Scarlets were semi-finalists last year and they were coming here to win this game. We had to be better than we were last week and I think we were in patches. We kept them out for eight minutes at the end in our 22, which was a phenomenal effort from us.
“We’re delighted with the bonus point obviously and it’s been a good two weeks. The boys have performed well on the pitch but training-wise as well they’ve been great.”
Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac told BBC Radio Wales: “Ten-three down and a man in the sin-bin was a bitter pill to take just before half-time.
“We started the second half well, got ourselves back into the game, but too many errors under the high ball I think in that second half in particular.
“The possession and territory mounted up against us and then something had to give.”
Ulster: L Ludik; H Speight, W Addison, S McCloskey, J Stockdale; B Burns, J Cooney; E O’Sullivan, R Best (capt), M Moore, I Henderson, K Treadwell, S Reidy, J Murphy, M Coetzee.
Replacements: R Herring, K McCall, T O’Toole, M Rea, N Timoney, D Shanahan, J McPhillips, D Cave.
Scarlets: J McNicholl; T Prydie, J Davies, H Parkes, S Evans; R Patchell, G Davies; W Jones, K Owens (capt), S Lee, J Ball, D Bulbring, L Rawlins, W Boyde, U Cassiem.
Replacements: R Elias, P Price, W Kruger, T Price, J Helps, S Hidalgo-Clyne, D Jones, P Asquith.
Sin bin: W Jones (29)
Referee: Luke Pearce (RFU)
Assistants: JP Doyle and Karl Dickson (RFU)
TMO: Graham Hughes (RFU)